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Chuck Hinman: IJMA 118 : Gypsies Are Coming Your Way!

Chuck Hinman, It's Just Me Again 118 : Gypsies Are Coming Your Way!
It was a warning but Chuck says, I don't remember Mom ever missing anything out of the house. The next earlier Chuck Hinman Story: - IJMA 084 : What Makes Men Cry

By Chuck Hinman

Gypsies Are Coming Your Way!

In writing my memories of growing up on a farm in southeast Nebraska, I haven't written about the influx of vagrant people during the economic hardships of the 1930's. A movie was made of Okies invading California, in droves hoping to find a better life in the dust bowl days.

No one would have thought the crooked road going by our house connecting the small towns of Wymore and Liberty, Nebraska, would attract any homeless people. The road wasn't paved. It attracted mostly local traffic.

But just ask my Mom, a Nebraska farm housewife, how many times she answered the knock at the door -- "Ma'm, could you share some of your food with me, I'm down on my luck?"

Mom understood their plight and pleasantly asked them to wait and she would prepare a sack lunch of whatever she had on hand. She invited them to sit in the shade on the porch while they ate their lunch before moving on. Even our dog, Sport, was sociable and lay nearby just in case there was a cast-off bread crust.

We lived a mile or so from the busy Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad track. They ran a lot of freight and passenger trains. If we just happened to be nearby when a freight train passed by, it was common to see vagrants all over the train, on top the box cars, riding between the cars, some standing in the open doorway of an empty box car, etc.

The rare but by far the most exciting was a band of gypsies going through our rural neighborhood. They were different than ordinary homeless people. They traveled in bands consisting of several horse drawn vehicles that housed more people than you would believe -- perhaps several families who when they stopped to camp for the evening, cooked and slept in those house-type vehicles.

If they chose to visit your house for a handout of food, they stopped on the road and only the women came to the door. There might be 4 or 5 of them. None of the men or children came to the door. The women were the hustlers and they struck fear in the heart of a Nebraska housewife by their numbers and their incessant jabbering. They were obviously foreign because they didn't speak English, just jabbered with a lot of sign language. What made them fearful to my Mom if they called on us when Dad wasn't home was they would knock on all four of our entrance doors and come in the house without being invited. The women wore many layers of clothes with which Mom was fearful they could strip your house of more than food. Although I can remember about 4 or 5 of these gypsy bands, I don't remember Mom or Dad ever feeling they missed anything taken out of the house. They settled for a couple of chickens and some canned food.

Farm women called their neighbor friends giving them advance warning -- "Hey Allie, some gypsies are coming your way. You may want to lock your doors!"

Those were exciting times for a youngster -- the social unrest brought about by economic duress. No one escaped it. I'm so glad it is a part of my "his-story."

Written by Chuck Hinman, 18 November 2007.

This story was posted on 2012-10-28 00:24:18
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